A few days ago I spoke with my old intern about leadership and ministry. One of the things I told him, as he is on the forefront of full-time professional ministry, is to not only recognize the small encouraging moments, but to save them and hold on to them. They do not come your way very often.
As a leader of people, you are almost never going to get encouragement or praise from those you lead. In fact, you will always hear the things people are angry or frustrated with you over.
Here are 4 things I have learned (or am learning) to keep in mind as you navigate the discouraging weight of leadership:
1. The minority is louder than the majority
Resist the strong temptation to believe the opinion of that person who dislikes what you are doing and who you are is the opinion of everyone. Remember that most people are never going to tell you that they love what you are doing, but the few who do not like what you are doing will almost ALWAYS tell you. Remember that THIS person does not like what is happening, but everyone else is good with you. IF there is not all-out anarchy, start assuming most people are on-board.
2. Save the good stuff somewhere
A good ministry friend of mine once posted about a special box he has where he saves any encouraging letter, note, or comment he gets. Have a place to save those little things for a couple reasons. First, you do not get them very often. Second, those days when you are getting very discouraged and wondering if anything you are doing is making a difference or even working, pull out that box and read through those reflections from real people you are leading and caring for.
3. Surround yourself well
I try (though right now not completely) to surround myself with a few different types of people, because otherwise, I will suffocate in ministry and leadership. First, I need to have friends who are not involved in my or any ministry. I need people don't know Pastor PC. They know relaxed, laughs a lot, homebrews, watches SNL and SYTYCD, drinks beer and wine, wears shorts sometimes, watches A LOT of college football PC. Second, I need friends in my specific ministry area. I meet once a month with nearly ALL of the college and young adult pastors and ministry directors in the Sacramento area. It is important for me to chat and sometimes vent with people who know exactly what I am talking about or up against in my area of leadership. It is more than networking; it is a monthly injection of keep-at-it. Lastly, I need wise people. I need someone who has been engaged in ministry for longer and at a different level than I have. I need them to challenge my attitude, my growth, and my actual actions. We all need a mentor, a counselor, a discipler (this is where I STILL lack right now as my mentor moved to another state).
4. Your obligation remains (remember your why)
I was reading in Numbers 16 an incredible story about a large group of people complaining about their leader (Moses). Just read the chapter; a CRAZY story! In reflection, I read this by Matthew Henry: "If others fail in their duty to us, that does not take away the obligation we are under to seek their welfare." Do not forget WHY you do what you do. Do not forget WHY you started doing this in the first place. That obligation, that passion, that heart still remains; its just been knocked around a bit.
A pastor of mine once said, "Ministry would be great if it weren't for all the people." Leadership is always going to be difficult and messy, because we are working with PEOPLE. But be encouraged! You are doing a great job. Let me be one to tell you!